ALLENTOWN, NEW JERSEY—Two former best friends and college roommates had a falling out this month, resulting in multiple sabotage attempts by both parties—some of them “downright savage” according to authorities. 

Tia Ellwell and Ashley Gaughan, both graduates of the Equine Studies program at Rutgers University, began working as assistant trainers at the same barn in Southern New York a year ago. 

“At first, it was a dream situation,” said Ellwell, noting that the two shared an apartment, worked, rode, and went out together on weekends. “It was basically a continuation of our college years, where we competed together on the equestrian team, and lived in the same dorm, and hung out all the time. Nothing had really changed.”

But then, it did.

According to Gaughan, the falling out occurred as a result of that age-old tale: a tall, dark, and handsome stranger that came between them. “His name was Sherwood,” she explained. “We called him Artie in the barn.

“He was a sale horse and recent import, and I was promised the ride on him initially, because I’d tried him in Europe with our boss. Then, Artie finally gets here, and I miss one lead change in the green hunters, and suddenly, that’s it. 

“The next week, Tia started flatting him in the mornings, and then the week after that, she’s on the board to ride him at the next show. The worst part was, she didn’t even say anything to me, even though she knew all the work I’d put in, and the bond I had established with him. 

“When Tia started posting photos with him on her Instagram, making kissy faces in the barn aisle, and feeding him cupcakes, I just knew that was it. A line had been crossed.”

Relations between the two roommates soured quickly after that, despite a clear ‘zero-drama policy’ at their stable of employment. But they came to a head this month during a rated horse show in nearby Allentown, New Jersey. 

“It started innocently enough,” explained Ellwell. “I came home one evening after working all day at the show. Ashley was going out to dinner with the clients, and I just wanted to cuddle with my dog and eat leftovers. But they were gone. Ashley actually ate my leftovers. Who does that?”

In response, Ellwell admits, she upped the ante, swapping out Gaughan’s boot polish for some gourmet cuttlefish ink she found in the pantry of their Airbnb.

“I didn’t notice anything when I put my boots on, but all through that day, these stray cats kept coming up, purring and rubbing on my legs,” Gaughan recounted. “The judge excused me early from the hack class I was in, I assume on account of the smell. I didn’t know at the time what was going on, but it was definitely something fishy.” 

The final straw: When a fed-up Gaughan returned alone to the house that evening, she noticed a load of Ellwell’s show breeches still damp in the washing machine. She said she considered hanging the clothes on the line outside to dry. Then, she picked up the pile and moved all six pairs into the dryer, setting the heat to full blast. 

“It was an utterly savage move,” said investigating police officer Brian Gates. “The behavior of these two women had obviously been escalating over the last week, but from what I understand, to machine-dry an entire load of expensive, form-fitting riding pants was really beyond the pale.” 

When their trainer boss finally caught wind of their antics, Ellwell and Gaughan agreed to knock it off—especially when they were threatened with double-mucking and permanent night check duties. Though their feud has since ceased, Gaughan said, tensions at press time were still running high. 

“Why, did she tell you things were better between us?” Gaughan asked. “Seriously, what did she say about me?”